India’s Assam state repeals British-era Muslim marriage law

The Indian state of Assam, which has a large Muslim population, has repealed a British-era law on Muslim marriage and divorce, prompting anger among the minority community whose leaders say the plan is an attempt to polarise voters on religious lines ahead of the national election.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma wrote on X on Saturday that the state has repealed the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act that was enacted close to nine decades ago.

“This act contained provisions allowing marriage registration even if the bride and groom had not reached the legal ages of 18 and 21, as required by law. This move marks another significant step towards prohibiting child marriages in Assam,” he wrote.

The legislation, enacted in 1935, laid down the legal process in line with the Muslim personal law. After a 2010 amendment, it made the registration of Muslim marriages and divorces compulsory in the state, whereas registration was voluntary before.

Authorities in the state, which is governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had called the law “outdated” and alleged it allowed child marriages.

The state government’s crackdown on child marriages  which started last year, has included several thousand arrests under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in a quest to “eradicate” child marriages by 2026.

But representatives of the Muslim community in the state said the crackdown was largely directed against them.

Assam, which has the highest percentage of Muslims among Indian states at 34 percent, has previously said it wants to implement uniform civil laws for marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance, as the northern state of Uttarakhand – also governed by the BJP – did earlier this month.

Nationwide, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other groups follow their own laws and customs or a secular code for such matters. The BJP has promised …read more

Source:: The Island